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Karnataka Congress initiates negotiations to win back rebel MLAs

Bengaluru | As the political imbroglio continued in Karnataka, Senior Congress leaders on Saturday began backchannel negotiations to persuade the disgruntled MLAs, who have resigned from the Assembly, dealing a blow to the coalition government.

A day after Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy made a surprise announcement in the Assembly that he would seek a trust vote, efforts were intensified to reach out to the dissident legislators.

Congress’s troubleshooter and Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar reached the residence of Housing Minister M T B Nagaraj at about 5 AM and camped there for almost four-and-a-half hours, trying to pacify him.

According to reports, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara too reached Nagaraj’s house to convince him to withdraw the resignation.

Nagaraj had resigned from the MLA post on Wednesday.

A similar attempt was on to persuade MLAs Ramalinga Reddy, Munirathna and R Roshan Baig.

Sources in JD(S) said Kumaraswamy is in direct talks with at least four Congress legislators, who have resigned, and was hopeful that they would withdraw their resignation.

In a bid to keep the flock together ahead of the floor test that is likely during the coming week, both the Congress and BJP shifted their MLAs to hotel and resorts.

Commenting on the developments, BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa said these efforts would not yield any result as the fall of the government was “imminent”.

“There’s confusion in Congress and JD(S) due to which the MLAs are fleeing the party. A systematic conspiracy is going on to bring the MLAs back,” Yeddyurappa told reporters here.

“The atmosphere is chaotic and the fall of the government is imminent,” the state BJP chief said.

Claiming that the state government has lost the majority, he said seeking the vote of confidence was “meaningless”.

Kumaraswamy made the announcement about trust vote on the floor of the Assembly, after the Supreme Court Friday ordered the Speaker to maintain status quo on the resignations of 10 rebel MLAs belonging to the Congress-JDS coalition till July 16.

The coalition government, which has been shaky since it came into being last year after a post-poll arrangement in the wake of a hung verdict, is facing a serious crisis now with 16 MLAs — 13 of the Congress and three of the JD(S) — resigning from the Assembly.

Besides, two Independent legislators, who were made ministers recently to provide stability to the government, have quit the ministry and withdrawn their support to it.

The ruling coalition’s total strength is 116 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1), besides the Speaker.

With the support of the two Independents, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House.

If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the coalition’s tally will be reduced to 100.

The Speaker too has a vote.

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